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Commentaries and editorials

River Managers' Interim Decision:
No Spill on Lower Snake

by Mike O'Bryant
Columbia Basin Bulletin - March 21, 2003

Given the current water supply forecast for the Snake River, fisheries managers and river operating agencies this week determined that spring spill would not begin April 3 at lower Snake River dams.

However, that decision could be reversed at the Technical Management Team's next meeting if the water supply forecast rises as a result of greater than normal March precipitation.

That forecast stands at an estimated 14.7 million acre feet this week, falling short of the 16 maf set by the NOAA Fisheries 2000 biological opinion that would trigger spill at three of the four lower Snake River projects. Because of scheduled spill research, spill at Ice Harbor Dam will occur regardless of the water supply forecast.

"Let's not lock this decision in," said Ron Boyce of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "This is not a definite decision. We need to continue to adjust according to in-season conditions."

"The water volume is low now because it doesn't reflect the precipitation in the basin during March, which has been significant," said Paul Wagner of NOAA Fisheries.

"The decision is not to spill now," said Scott Bettin, Bonneville Power Administration. "For planning, the determination now is no spill. This is a black and white decision. The BiOp says what to do."

He suggested that TMT consider the decision again at its next meeting April 2, a week after the Northwest River Forecast Center releases its April early bird forecast. In making future spill decisions, he also suggested that TMT consider whether there are enough juvenile salmon migrants present at the dams.

Related Sites:
Technical Management Team:

Mike O'Bryant
River Managers' Interim Decision: No Spill on Lower Snake
Columbia Basin Bulletin, March 21, 2003

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